Outsourcing Asylum: How to Stop Human Smuggling from Africa to Europe

01.09.2017

The recent mini-summit in Paris carried on the EU policy of outsourcing asylum and helping African countries stem migration. But the latter will be very difficult to do and will take time because the lucrative and flourishing business of human smuggling is conducted with support from the authorities of the transit countries, especially Libya.

Tensions on the Central Mediterranean migration route kept growing in the spring and summer of 2017. The number of migrants to Italy was as large as last year, but the general route has shifted towards Spain, the priority destination for Moroccan migrants, for the first time since 2009.

On August 28, the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Chad, Niger and Libya met in Paris for an emergency mini-summit at the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron. The meeting, which was also attended by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, was part of preparations for the fifth EU-Africa summit, which will convene in November to discuss youth affairs, security and economic development.

The mini-summit in Paris focused on cutting illegal migration into Europe from Africa. The European Commission believes that Chad, Niger and Libya can play key roles in fighting human trafficking and strengthening security in northern Africa, an unstable region without laws.

President Macron said that the seven leaders had agreed on a “short-term plan of action” against those who have turned the Mediterranean into a “cemetery.” The joint statement that was adopted in Paris complemented the roadmap which the European Commission published in July to attract funds for managing migration processes in Africa, or more precisely, for shifting migrant registration centers from the EU to Chad and Niger, via which the majority of migrants are smuggled into Libya.

The meeting in Paris was also designed to give the major European powers a chance to coordinate their Libyan policy after individual countries, especially France and Italy, launched separate initiatives to stabilize Libya.

Political Stability in Libya: Opportunities and Challenges Nourhan El-Sheikh
The declaration adopted last week by Fayez Al Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar in France, represents a positive and important step toward resolving the Libyan crisis, but its implementation depends on the consensus of different Libyan parties and the support of international and regional actors, writes Valdai Club expert Nourhan El-Sheikh.

Macron presented his plan for security zones in Chad and Niger where applications from UN recognized refugees would be accepted and processed. The French president actually tried to shift the asylum procedure from Europe to Africa. He believes that the establishment of so-called hotspots (pre-asylum hubs) in Africa similar to those that have been set up in Greece and Italy to fast-track the registration of migrants (and that are currently overwhelmed) would help stem the flow of migrants willing to take the treacherous Mediterranean route to Europe.

The EU parties hailed Macron’s initiative, while the African leaders were clearly unenthusiastic, even though they expressed regret over the death of young Africans in the desert and while crossing the Mediterranean. President of Chad Idriss Deby said he did not like the idea of opening hotspots in his country where asylum seekers would lodge a request to travel to the EU, and that he would only agree to open such pre-asylum hubs for the registered refugees who live in Chad.

As a result, the seven leaders’ joint statement declares their intention to organize transit centers for the short-term residence of asylum seekers before their legal departure to Europe.

Over the past week, the EU approved contracts worth EUR 50 million to finance a multinational force comprised of military units from Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, which is supported by France and is headquartered in Mali. This regional force has been given the challenging task of fighting human trafficking, illegal trafficking in drugs and weapons, as well as terrorism. France already has some 4,000 troops in the volatile region. Germany said it was willing to provide military assistance as well.

The participants in the mini-summit also discussed EU-financed development programs for creating jobs in Africa. EU High Representative Federica Mogherini promised to launch a plan shortly to finance Africa’s economic development, saying that private investors could provide EUR 44 billion for this purpose.

Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime minister of Libya’s EU- and UN-backed government, asked for EU support to monitor his country’s southern border. Back in June, the EU promised to give Libya EUR 49 million to train a coast guard force.

The mandate of the EU Border Assistance Mission in Libya (EUBAM) has been extended until December 2018, but the EU only has a limited presence in the country due to the unstable and dangerous situation. Moreover, the mission’s office is located in Tunis.

Fayez al-Sarraj is unlikely to receive full-scale assistance from the EU because his government does not control a substantial part of the national territory. Shortly before the mini-summit in Paris, Italy planned to send six warships to help Libya’s coast guard, but was unable to implement its plan because of protests from Tripoli and threats from Libyan military leader Khalifa Haftar.

The recent mini-summit in Paris carried on the EU policy of outsourcing asylum and helping African countries stem emigration. But the latter will be very difficult to do and will take time because the lucrative and flourishing business of human smuggling is conducted with support from the authorities of the transit countries, especially Libya.

The EU leaders’ desire to stem migration at all costs runs contrary to the goals of the EU development policy, which provides for investing in Africa’s modernization rather than in stemming migration. The EU countries have demonstrated their reluctance to finance the streamlining of migration before. And private companies are not enthusiastic about investing in unstable regions either.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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